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Aeschylus 

The seven against Thebes of 
Aeschylus 



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Presented to the 
library of the 

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO 

by 

Mr. Edgar Stone 



J£Vf<- J£ 




The Nelson Playbooks 



Edited by JOHN HAMPDEN, M.A. 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 



No. 304 



THE VILLAGE DRAMA SOCIETY 

In association with the British Drama League 

The Society sends out sets of plays for selec- 
tion, and gives advice on questions of production. 
It will arrange Drama Schools, and provides 
Lecturers and Adjudicators. 

The Costume Department makes a speciality 
of beautiful and accurate historical costume, 
taking into account not only stage lighting for 
indoor plays, but distance and daylight on out- 
door performances. Well-known portraits have 
been copied in many instances. The department 
can now undertake to dress Pageants, Mystery 
plays, Shakespeare, Restoration, Eighteenth Cen- 
tury, and early Nineteenth Century plays, as well 
as Greek drama. 

Further particulars may be had from : 

The Hon. Secretary, Village Drama Society, 
274 New Cross Road, London, S.E.14. 



The Seven Against Thebes 

of 

iEschylus 



RENDERED INTO ENGLISH VERSE 

BY 

EDWYN BEVAN 

AUTHOR OF "THE HOUSE OF SELEUCUS" 



THOMAS NELSON AND SONS, Ltd. 
LONDON AND EDINBURGH 



LIBRARY ( 




All rights in this translation ai-e reserved 




3§ 



PREFACE 

Out of the old festivals of the wine-god, Dionysos, in which 
songs had been sung by a chorus, dealing with stories of the 
legendary past, there was developed at Athens, in the fifth 
century B.C., the drama, in which the old stories were acted. 
But since the Attic drama was still in theory a piece of 
religious ritual, carried out in honour of Dionysos, the 
chorus was retained as a form prescribed by tradition, though 
its action had somehow to be fitted into the action of the 
play. It was now given the role of a crowd or group of 
subordinate persons attached to one or other of the prin- 
cipal characters of the play, or belonging to the place which 
was the supposed scene of the play — a company of old 
men or sailors or maidens or slaves, or whatever the case 
might require. But the chorus could never take a very 
active part ; its role was mainly that of lookers-on, making 
comments on the actions and speeches of the characters 
in the play ; it might express very decided sympathies with 
one side or another where the play was a story of strife, and 
act as adviser or confidant to some person in the play. 

It continued to chant songs of some length ; but these 
were worked into the substance of the play, expressing the 
feelings aroused in the old men or maidens, or whoever the 
chorus might represent, by the situation of the moment, or 
calling to mind other old myths connected with the subject 
of the drama. These choric songs were also used to mark 
the divisions between the successive episodes of the drama, 
very much as is done by dropping the curtain in a modern 
play : the other actors, whilst they were being sung, re- 
mained behind the scenes, and the chorus had the orchestra 
all to itself. In the fifth century B.C. there seems to have 
been a wooden stage in the theatre of Dionysos at Athens. 
The tiers of marble seats rose on the hillside round a semi- 
circular space, in the middle of which was an altar. On the 
other side of this space, facing the audience, was the wall 
which formed the background for the play. It had the 

v 



PREFACE 

appearance of the facade of a house with a great door in the 
middle. Since in the majority of Greek plays the action is 
supposed to take place in front of some house, this facade 
served for the royal palace in Mycenae or Thebes, or for a 
chief's hut on the Trojan shore, or whatever abode was 
postulated by the story acted. Through the great door 
were made the entrances and exits of the persons from and 
into the interior of the palace or house. There were also 
doors right and left of the back wall, through which the 
exits and entrances were made when persons were going 
elsewhere than into the house or coming from elsewhere 
than from the interior. The semicircular space in front of 
the house was called the orchestra, which means " place 
for dancing." It was in this space that from the time of 
their entry, nearly always after the opening speech, or first 
few speeches, of the play, the chorus stood or moved about 
for the rest of the play. Some of their chanting was accom- 
panied by rhythmic movements and evolutions round or 
near the central altar, which may be described as " dancing," 
though, of course, very unlike what we call "dancing" 
to-day — more like some Oriental dancing. This dancing 
is indicated by the terms "strophe" and " antistrophe " 
attached to the choric songs. The " strophe " was a series 
of rhythmical movements corresponding with the metre of 
the song, which had to be precisely repeated in the " antis- 
trophe," perhaps in a reversed direction. The large semi- 
circular space gave plenty of room for the movements of the 
chorus apart from those of the actors proper, who took 
their station immediately in front of the back wall. All 
this makes it extraordinarily difficult to reproduce a Greek 
play in a modern theatre. Since there is no orchestra, the 
chorus has to be on the stage, where it crowds the actors 
uncomfortably : also, since we have no traditional associa- 
tions with a dancing like that of the ancient drama, the 
chanting and movements of the chorus cannot mean to us 
what they did to a fifth-century Greek, and in nearly all 
modern reproductions of Greek plays which I have seen in 
ordinary theatres, the chorus is a rather tiresome element 
which seems to clog the action of the play, and which 
one wishes away. Probably these difficulties could be got 
over by clever stage management. Another feature of the 
ancient drama strange to us, which it is probably best in 
modern reproductions to eliminate, was the wearing of 

vi 



PREFACE 

masks. No actor showed his real face : there were no 
actresses. All the actors and all the members of the chorus 
were men : if they took the role of women, they wore masks 
and dresses to suit. In tragedy the actors also wore boots 
with very thick soles to raise their stature above the com- 
mon. All this, because unfamiliar to our eye, looks so 
unnatural to-day that it destroys the appeal of the play 
if it is attempted. 

In the worship of the ancient Greek gods it was common 
to have contests of various kinds, athletic or musical. The 
fifth-century plays were all exhibited in the theatre of 
Dionysos in competitive contests between different dram- 
atic poets at the festivals of the god. Each poet had to 
get together a chorus some time before the festival and 
" teach "it. He had also to teach the two or three or four 
actors required. Not more than four actors were ever re- 
quired, because the wearing of masks allowed the same actor 
to take different parts. Each poet presented a series of 
three tragedies, commonly spoken of by scholars to-day as 
a " trilogy," followed by a fourth play of a lighter, semi- 
comic kind, called a " satyric " play, because the chorus in 
it normally consisted of the mythical goat-legged beings 
whom the Greeks called " satyroi." Performances must 
have gone on all day, perhaps into dusk (it is noticeable 
that torchlight shows or playing with fire were a feature 
at the end of the great trilogy of vEschylus and apparently 
in some of the lost satyric plays). At the end the judges 
gave one of the competing poets the prize. 

The three great Athenian tragedians, ^Eschylus, Sophocles, 
and Euripides, were by no means the only dramatic poets of 
their day, and sometimes they were beaten in the contest 
by other men who are only names to us to-day. But it is 
only of those three that plays are preserved, seven out of 
the ninety said to have been composed by ^Eschylus, seven 
of Sophocles, and eighteen or (if the Rhesus is genuine) 
nineteen of Euripides. iEschylus, the eldest of the three, 
was born probably somewhere about 524 B.C. and he died 
in 456 or 455 b.c. ; Euripides, the youngest, was born in 
480 B.C., so that he must have seen the plays of iEschylus, 
as a lad, when they were first presented. But though so 
near in time, there is an immense difference of character 
between the plays of iEschylus and the plays of Euripides. 
For with Euripides a modernist fashion set in. It must be 

vii 



PREFACE 

remembered that Greek tragedies, with very few excep- 
tions, dealt not with contemporary life, but with the stories 
of a supposed heroic age long past, as familiar to all the 
spectators as the Bible stories were to our fathers, seen trans- 
figured through a halo of legend. Euripides tried to present 
the characters of these stories in a way which assimilated 
them more, in their mentality and language and behaviour, 
to the real men and women of his own time, and in so doing 
he provoked violent protest and ridicule from old-fashioned 
people. iEschylus is still primitive and solemn, his imagina- 
tion belonging to a world not ours, in which men stand 
awed before dark tremendous Powers ; his language is 
built up with rich, sonorous, poetic words remote from the 
language of every day, a language which was to contempo- 
rary speech very much what the language of the Bible and 
of Milton is to our common speech. As compared with 
Euripides, .ZEschylus was stiff and archaic and naif, but he 
had the impressiveness of ancient dignity. His mind was 
steeped in religion, in the sense of awe regarding the unseen 
Powers ; sometimes he seems to come nearer than any other 
Greek writer to the Old Testament. It is especially the 
idea of curses working themselves out in some great house 
of the ancient time, generation after generation, which gives 
the note of his tragedies. Man, in a type heroically idealized, 
is seen contending with this dark Power, and contending often, 
for all his splendid efforts, in vain. This Power of destiny 
or vengeance is personified in the imagined figure of the 
Erinys, or, in the plural, the Erinyes, called by the Romans 
" Furies," the goddesses who are behind all the successive 
catastrophes, and who hunt the guilty man, or the man 
of the accursed family, to his doom. It is akin to the idea 
of the " weird" in northern mythology. The origin of the 
curse in the Greek legendary stories is some offence com- 
mitted against the gods — disobedience to an oracle or proud 
boasting words : J^schylus, in his profound reverence for 
me ancestral gods, had as great a horror as a pious Hebrew 
of the " mouth that speaketh great things." 

The play here translated was the third in a trilogy dealing 
with the royal house of Thebes in the legendary past, upon 
whom a curse had rested since the disobedience of La'ius — 
a story dark with the horror of family bloodshed, incest, 
and suicide. The first two plays of the trilogy, La'ius and 
CEdipus, are lost ; also the satyric play, The Sphinx, which 

viii 



PREFACE 

followed The Seven against Thebes. The trilogy was first 
presented in the theatre of Dionysos in the year 467 B.C., 
and on this occasion ^Eschylus won the first prize. The 
Seven against Thebes is a poem which, beyond any other 
Greek play, brings before us the terror and the splendour of 
ancient war. It is full of the sound of shields clashing, 
towering figures of an age when men were half -divine, meet- 
ing in battle under a sky charged with imminent doom. It 
is, of course, not exactly the war of the poet's own time, 
which iEschylus knew well enough as an old warrior who 
had fought at Marathon in 490 against the Persians : it is 
war idealized, as it appeared to the fifth-century Greeks 
in Homer and the other old epics. Probably the part of the 
play which for the generations following that of ^Eschylus 
gave it abiding interest, and secured its preservation, is the 
highly worked-up description of the seven chiefs and of the 
different devices on their shields. All this belongs rather 
to Homeric warfare than to fifth-century Greek warfare. 
One feature, however, in war, as the play shows it, was true 
of war in the poet's own time — the horrors which attended 
the capture of a city by a hostile army. War in the 
twentieth century a.d. seems to have horrors added to it 
which ancient warfare did not know ; it is fair to remember 
that ancient warfare had also horrors from which modern 
warfare is free. When iEschylus wrote, in the wars between 
the Greek city-states it was common for the people vic- 
torious to carry off into slavery the whole population of a 
conquered town. When, therefore, the Theban maidens in 
our play express almost hysterical terror at the possible 
fate awaiting them if the city is taken, that would have had 
a note of dreadful actuality to the first hearers of the play. 
It is because Eteocles the king stands between such a fate 
and his people that he appears a figure of heroic intrepidity. 
As the ancient Greek plays come down to us in mediaeval 
manuscripts there are no stage directions, no notes even of 
" enter" and " exit" ; nothing but the letters signifying 
the several speakers. In the two plays which Swinburne 
wrote imitating ancient Greek plays, Atalanta in Calydon 
and Erechtheus, in order to make them look as like Greek 
plays as possible, he omitted all stage directions, and in the 
first edition of my translation of this play of ^Eschylus, 
published by Edward Arnold in 1912, I followed the same 
plan. Readers of the translations of Greek plays, who have 

ix 



PREFACE 

no acquaintance with the original, should understand that 
all the stage directions they find inserted are made up by 
the translator at his fancy or discretion, as they seem to 
him required by the situation, and represent nothing in 
the Greek. But it is likely that for such readers they often 
make the action of the play more rapidly intelligible, and in 
a large number of cases they show what a scholar, by his 
study of the text, sees that the action accompanying the 
words must be in order to correspond with the poet's 
intention. In this small edition of my translation I have 
accordingly inserted stage-directions throughout. 

E. B. 



CONTENTS 

Of the Argument of the Play 13 

"The Seven against Thebes" 17 

The Pronunciation of the Greek Names . . 68 

List of the Cast 7° 



XI 



The "Antigone" of Sophocles, which is published in this 
series of Playbooks in Professor Lewis Campbell's verse 
translation, also dramatizes {somewhat differently) the old 
story how Antigone buried Polynices in defiance of the State, 
and carries on the story until after Antigone's death. 



12 



OF THE ARGUMENT 

Cadmus the Phoenician, coming into the land of Bceotia. 
in Greece, slew a great serpent whose dwelling was near 
the stream Dirce. With the teeth of the serpent he 
sowed a field, and there sprang up warriors out of the 
ground, who fell to fighting together, so that a great part 
of them were slain. Certain, however, remained alive, 
and together with these he built the city of Cadmea, 
called afterwards Thebes, upon the streams Dirce and 
Ismenus. The children of those warriors which had 
sprung from the serpent's teeth, called the Sown Ones, 
had ever chief honour among the Cadmeans in after 
time. Moreover, the God Ares gave Cadmus to wife his 
daughter Harmonia, whom the Cyprian goddess Aphro- 
dite had borne him, wherefore Ares was reckoned as 
their special protector by the Cadmeans and Aphrodite 
as in a sort their mother. Cadmus also established in 
his city the worship of Athene, giving her the surname 
Onca. Two generations after Cadmus the city came into 
the power of Amphion and Zethus, whose father was 
none other than Zeus himself, and Amphion built a 
wall about it by the magic of his harping, a great wall 
with seven gates. 

When Laius, the great-grandson of Cadmus, was King 
of Thebes, the oracle of Apollo at Delphi foretold evil, 
unless he died without issue. But Laius, being disobe- 
dient, begat a son. Then there came to him a word of 
divination that this babe should be the slayer of his 
father and should take his own mother to wife. Where- 
fore Laius, willing that the child should die, but not 
willing to kill him, cast him forth upon the mountains. 

13 



OF THE ARGUMENT 

The child, however, was found by a shepherd and taken 
to the house of the King of Corinth, and he was reared 
up in Corinth, being called (Edipus, and held to be the 
King of Corinth's son. When (Edipus was come to man's 
estate he journeyed to Thebes, which at that time was 
sore afflicted by a she-monster, the Sphinx, who ravaged 
the land for so long as the Cadmeans could not read her 
riddle, and as many as went to her and sought to read 
her riddle but could not, she devoured. As (Edipus 
drew near Thebes he met King La'ius on the way, and, 
falling into a quarrel with him, smote him so that he 
died, not knowing that it was his father. After this the 
Cadmeans in distress proclaimed that whoever should 
read the riddle of the Sphinx should be King of Thebes 
and take the dead king's queen to wife. And (Edipus 
guessing the riddle, the Sphinx slew herself, and (Edipus 
became King of Thebes and married the dead king's 
queen, not knowing that she was his mother. Of her he 
had two sons, Eteocles and Polynices,* and two daughters, 
Antigone and Ismene. But at last (Edipus discovered 
the truth. Then, in anguish of spirit, he put out his 
own eyes. After this, being displeased with his sons 
because they gave him not such sustenance as he desired, 
he cursed them, praying that they might divide the 
inheritance by means of iron and might possess so much 
land as should suffice for a grave. When (Edipus was 
dead, the brothers quarrelled, and Eteocles drove Poly- 
nices out of the city. Polynices then betook himself to 
Adrastus, King of Argos, and persuaded Adrastus to 
bring him back to the land of the Cadmeans with an 
army. Wherefore King Adrastus marched with Poly- 
nices against Thebes, having under him six great chiefs 
of the Argives, and the Argives overran the country and 
laid siege to the city, the Cadmeans fighting against them 
under the kingship of Eteocles. And here beginneth the 
action of the play. 

* " Polynices " in Greek means " Man of much strife." See 
page 42. 

14 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 



15 



THE PERSONS 

Eteocles. 

A Spy, a Bringer of Tidings. 

Antigone. 

Ismene. 

A Herald. 

Chorus of Cadmean Virgins. 

The scene is a public place in Thebes, near a sanctuary 
wherein are seen images of Zeus, Ares, Poseidon, Apollo, 
Hera, Pallas Athene, Artemis, and Aphrodite. 



(3,552) 16 



THE SEVEN AGAINST 
THEBES 

[The scene of the play is an open space before the r oval- 
palace in Thebes, which city ASscJiylus in this play always 
calls by what, according to tradition, was its older name, 
Cadmea. 

As first represented in the theatre of Dionysos, the palace 
door probably opened on to a wooden stage higher than the 
orchestra in which the crowd at the opening of the play, and 
the chorus later on, stood or moved. Certainly, if the plav 
were put on the modern stage, it would be almost necessary 
that the palace door should be raised by the height of a few 
steps above the ground in front, so that the King, when he 
addresses the crowd or the chorus, should stand well above it. 
Similarly, at the close of the play the Herald would stand at 
the top of the palace steps to make his proclamation. Some- 
where in front of the palace is a sanctuary — an altar or an 
assemblage of altars — dedicated to the eight tutelary gods 
of the city, Zeus the king of the gods, Ares the war-god, 
Poseidon the sea-god, Apollo, Hera the wife of Zeus, Pallas 
Athene, Artemis the twin-sister of Apollo, and Aphrodite 
the goddess of love, called also Kypris, " the Cyprian," 
because of her great temple in Cyprus. In or above this 
sanctuary are images of the eight gods — curious stiff archaic 
shapes ; even in the- days of .Eschylus Greek art was still 
stiff and archaic, and these are images strange and ancient, 
belonging, it is supposed, to a time very long before. No 
doubt the altar which, we have seen, stood in the middle of 
the orchestra would have been fitted out for the purposes of 

(3,55-4) 1 7 2 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

the play to represent this sanctuary with its eight quaint 
images. 

When the play opens the space in front of the palace is 
occupied by groups of men of all ages, looking anxiously 
towards the great door of the palace. The door opens and 
Eteocles, the king, comes forth. He is dressed in long and 
splendid robes, and carries a long staff or sceptre in his 
hand. He wears no crown, because a crown was not, with 
the Greeks, an emblem of royalty : possibly he wears a 
band round his head, tied behind, with the ends hanging 
down, which the Greeks called a " diadem." He stands 
just outside the door and addresses the crowd :] 

ETEOCLES 

People of Cadmus, he must wield his word 
Home to the instant's need, who, set beside 
The city's helm, deviseth of her way, 
Hand on the tiller and lids refrain'd from sleep. 
For if good fall, the praise therefor is God's ; 
But if there come — may't never, I pray ! — mischance, 
Then one man's name shall wax in sound, to fill* 
The city and all men's mouths, and Eteocles 
Be toss'd in a wild surf and clamour of tongues — 
Wails, malisons, whereof may he, whose name 
Is Zeus Forfender, be Forfender indeed 
Unto this city of Cadmean men ! 
And unto you, O people, I say — to him 
That is not yet full man, and him the years 
Have minish'd somewhat from the man that was, 
And him whose loins have manhood whole in them, 
Whose body is big and fed with lusty sap, 
All of you, every age, as comely is, 
Help ye this city, help the sanctuaries 
Of our own gods, that they may keep for ever 
Their worship unprofaned, your little ones, 
And this earth, mother of us and nurse and friend. 
For she it was, when we were pitiful 

18 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

Slight crawling things, that on her sustinent breast, 
Giving glad welcome to all toil that came, 
Did nurse us up, to stand in such an hour 
As this, the people of her soil, complete 
In arms and heart to bear them, faithful found. 
And hitherto, behold, God's will hath leant 
Rather to our salvation : yea, though siege 
Hath held us wall-emboss'd these many days, 
Our warfare hath not wanted grace of heaven. 
But now the seer hath spoken, he to whom 
All feather'd things are given for flock, whose ears 
And spirit read, without the office of fire, 
By some sure craft the wise way of the birds — 
He, master of such-like oracles, hath shown 
Great battle toward of all the Achaean power, 
Night-publish'd, levell'd at the city's life. 
Up then to the battlements with all tools of war ! 
To the gateway-castles ! Up, each man, I say ! 
Beset the breastworks : tarry not : take post 
Within the fabric of the towers, or stand 
At the issuing of the gates, and bear good heart : 
Fear not o'ermuch the outlandish rabble : God 
Shall make the ending good. Myself withal 
Have sent out spies, perusers of the host, 
Whose going, I trow, not vain is : taught of these 
I shall not be amazed by any guile. 
[The crowd disperses and goes out right and left. Enter 
from the direction of one of the city gates the Spy. He 
does obeisance to the King, and speaks :] 

THE SPY 

King of this people, good lord Eteocles, 
Lo, I bear back to thee the very shape 
Of things wrought yonder in the host : mine eyes 
Have seen them and my lips shall utter them. 
Seven men there were, chief-captains, fiery-proud, 
These same did slay a bull : the bason was 

19 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

A shield, black-bounden : and each man his hand 
Dipp'd in the dark stream of hot bestial life, 
And sware, crying dread names, the Lord of War, 
The Battle-maiden and blood-ravening Fear, 
That either he would sack by strength of hand 
The town Cadmean and unbuild her towers, 
Or, slain, make bloody clay of this land's dust. 
And each did bind the chariot of the king 
Adrastus with such token as might keep 
His memory in far days with those at home 
Who bare him, not without some fall of tears, 
But, for their mouth, nought weak was found therein : 
Those hearts were iron-proof : there burn'd the clear 
Spirit of war unquenchable : they seem'd 
Lions, whose eyes are even as gleaming swords. 
And look, no lag-foot post is this I bring ; 
Even as I went from them, they cast the lot, 
How each must launch his battle at the gates. 
Wherefore let chosen men, the city's best, 
Be set by thy ordainment presently 
To keep the issuing of the gates : for near — 
The Argive host, full-harness'd, draweth near, 
With trampling and with whirl of dust : the fields 
Be fleck'd with flying white from the hot breath 
Of horses. But do thou, O king, this ship's 
Good rudderman, make strong her civic wall 
Or ever lighten on us the hurricane 
Immense of war, the roaring of the sea 
That is of men, not waters. Nay, dispose 
As shall be swiftest in the act, and I 
Shall do my daylight office with, as true 
Curious an eye, that thou by clear report 
May'st look beyond the doors and take no harm. 
[The Spy goes out in the same direction from which he 
came. The King, left alone, stands a moment deep in 
thought. Then he flings out his hand towards the 
images of the eight gods, and speaks in passionate 
appeal :] 

20 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

ETEOCLES 

O Zeus and Earth and gods that dwell with us, 

dark and strong Destroyer, my father's Curse, 

1 cry to you, break. us not utterly ! 
Make not this city as a tree pluck'd up 

By the roots, abolish'd, broken of battles, one 
That speaketh the sweet speech of Hellas, homes 
Where the old fire burneth ; this free land, this town 
Of Cadmus, bind it never in bonds of shame. 
Be strong to save. Surely ye too are grieved 
In all our grieving, for that city's gods 
Do get most honour, which most prospereth. 
[Eteocles goes back within the palace. Enter from the side 
towards the interior of the city the Chorus of Cadmean 
maidens. They group themselves about the sanctuary 
of the eight gods and break into their chant. When the 
passage marked Str. i {Strophe i) begins, their chant 
is accompanied with rhythmical movements and evolu- 
tions round the sanctuary. It is to be noted that the 
chant before the Strophe begins is not uttered by all 
the Chorus together, but by different maidens chant- 
ing singly, beginning presumably with the Leader of 
the Chorus. How the parts are to be distributed be- 
tween the different maidens is a matter for dramatic 
discretion.'] 

CHORUS 

Pangs have laid hold on me, terrors have loosed my 
tongue in crying, 
An army is moved from its place, the foot of the foe 
is a-stir : 
Horsemen in ruining floods, 
Multitudes, multitudes, 
Horsemen are there in the van ! Can I doubt, when 
heavenward flying 
Lo, the dark dust, the sure, swift, voiceless 
messenger ! — 

21 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

A thunder, a noise in mine ears ! Ye are smitten, plains 
of my land, 
Smitten of violent hoofs, and the wave o'erhangeth its 
fall: 
It breaketh, it roareth as waters that no bound can 
withstand ! 
Stand ye in the path of destruction, gods, god- 
desses all ! 

More high than the walls ascend 
Shouts ; they are nigh, they are nigh, 
The strong, white-shielded nation, 
The people ready for war ! 

Who now shall save or befriend ? 

What god of the gods on high ? 

Oh, who shall show us salvation ? 

What goddess of all that are ? — 

Graven gods of the city, familiars and warders of it, 
On the thrones of your peace establish'd, which shall 
I seek to and pray ? — 
Cling fast to the holy feet ! Why stand we and wail 
without profit ? — 
Lo, heard ye a ringing, a ringing, shields ringing, yea 



or nay 



? 



Will a time be ever for garb of entreaty 
A time for the crown that craveth pity, 
If it be not to-day ? — 

Mine ears discern and know 
A sound, mine ears a-strain : 

Can one spear clatter so ? 
Not one nor twain. 

O Ares, O praise 
Of our fathers, what thing 
Wilt thou do to us ? Thou 
That of ancient days 
22 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

Art this land's king, 
Forsake it not now ! — 
O god of the helmet of gold, 
Look down on this people, behold 
The city that once by thy grace 
Was glad among cities, the place 
Which thou lovedst of old ! 

Come to our help, dear gods, that abide in the land's 
high places, [Sir. i.] 

Strength of the city, come ! We weak, we that 
maidens are 
Do cry to you, clasp you, entreat 
With the moving of hands and feet, 
Lest a day dawn dark and the shame of bondage cover 
our faces, 
For the city is set midmost in the wave and the welter 
of war — 
A wave that is driven of a wind, of a vehement spirit 
and eager, 
Crests aslant with the speed of their going — Ah God, 
give aid ! 
O Zeus that dost work and wield 
All things to the utterance, shield 
These walls from o'erleaping, shield them, for the 
Argive hosts beleaguer 
Cadmus' builded burg, and the drawn sword maketh 
afraid. 
Death is set forth on his way, and a dread sound, lo. 
for omen — 
Jangling of bridles, shaken and gnash' d in jaws foam- 
white ! 
There be seven strong men, the strongest and lordliest 
of our foemen, 
Set foot to the seven gateways, spearmen in harness 

dight, 
To every gateway a man, as his lot fell out for to 
fight. 

23 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

Splendour burning to battle, Pallas, child of the 
Highest, [Ant. i.] 

Fence of the City, defend it ! and thou too, O King, 
for to thee 
The strength of horses, the strong 
Fierce heart of the seas, belong, 
Thy cunning shaft, that for doom in the silvery shoals 
thou pliest, 
Lift up for our loosing, Poseidon, from fear fast-bound 
set us free. 
Ares, Ares, awake for thy city ! Is kindred for- 
gotten ? 
Hast yet to thine own a kindness ? Stand forth, be it 
shown in our eyes ! 
Cyprian, Cyprian, aid, 
In the dark of whose womb was made 
This people's ancient mother : we, blood of thy blood 
begotten, 
Do come to thee with strong praying, do storm thy 
presence with cries. 
O King that art named of the Wolf, of a wolf's deeds 
be thou doer : 
Ravin and slay : turn back our groans on the head of 
the foe ! 
And thou, O virgin-daughter of her that had Zeus for 
wooer, 
Daughter of Leto, look that the arrow be couch' d on 
thy bow. 

(Lo there ! lo there !) [Str. 2.] 

The rushing of cars, of cars at the gates, the rushing and 
rattle ! 
Hera, Hera above ! 
The naves of the axles shriek, full-fraught with the 
burden of battle — 
Artemis, where is thy love ? 
And the tempest and torment of spears doth madden 
the air under heaven : 
24 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

city, what travail is this ? To the edge of what doom 
art thou driven ? 
What end will God order thereof ? 

(Nay, hark ! nay, hark !) [Ant. 2.] 

The stony storm doth reach to the crown of the walls, 
to shake them — 
Apollo, merciful one ! 
In the doors is the clashing of bucklers, brass manifold 
— who shall break them ? 
O Son, whose Father alone 
Is lord of the sanctions of war, when the balance of battle 

is weighted ! 
Rise thou too, Blessed one, Onca, and succour the seven- 
gated 
City, the place of thy throne ! — 

O all together, strong to save, [Sir. 3.] 

All gods, all goddesses, that have 
Lordship of us and guard our wall, 
Give not this town up to the lust 
Of men of strange lips, but, being just, 
Regard these lifted hands and voices virginal. 

Dear gods, to whom the city hath kneel'd, [Ant. 3.] 

Ye her redeemers and strong shield, 

That ye do love her, let men see ! 

Remember — and haste to her defence — 

All the slain beasts and frankincense, 
The old gladness of her feasts remember ye. 
[Eteocles, habited as before, comes forth from the palace 

and speaks, standing near the door :] 



ETEOCLES 

Nay, but I ask you, breed intolerable, 
Is this well done ? Make these things for our help, 

25 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

For comfort to the people that abide 

In arms here, close shut up, that ye fall flat 

Before these holy faces of our gods, 

Wail, shriek ? — which things well-govern' d spirits abhor. 

Gods ! May I never house with womankind, 

Neither in evil days nor pleasant. Grant 

Woman her will, she is all frowardness, 

Nowise consortable : is she a-fear'd ? 

Then house and city have one plague the more. 

And now ye have moved the citizens to thrid 

The backward passage of flight : ye fling wild cries 

That strike men's hearts with palsy : yea by you 

The hands of them without have gotten strength, 

And we of our own selves are made a spoil. 

Henceforth let butt against my regiment 

Or man or woman or creature — what will I ? — 

Ambiguous, on such an one shall fall 

Sentence deliberate past escape, to die 

Stone-pelted by the popular hand. I say 

That the man's charge it is — let woman not 

Meddle herewith — what passeth out of doors. 

Abide within. Mar not our work. Ye have heard, 

Or hear ye not and speak I in deaf ears ? 

CHORUS \ 

[Chanting and dancing, as also in the rhymed passages 
following,] 
O son of CEdipus, fear [Str. I.] 

O'erwhelmed me, travail indeed. 
Yea, I heard them, the rumour and beat 
Of chariots and thundering feet, 
The bolts of the wheels did I hear 
In the fury and heat of their speed, 
And the clash of the bridles that turn, 
As a ship the hand astern, 
Swift steeds to a man's desire, 
The bits that were born for the fierceness of war in the 
fierceness of fire. 

26 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

ETEOCLES 

Yea so ! and found the mariner who ran 

From poop to prow a way of help thereby, 

When the ship strain'd against the breaching seas ? 

CHORUS 

Nay ! but to these did I fly, [Ant. I.] 

The images, visage and form, 
Devisements of olden dread, 
And my feet all feet outsped — # 
For I hoped in the gods most high — 
When there beat on the gateways the storm 
Of a heavy incessable snow, 
And, with terror for wings, not slow 
Was the cry of my prayer to ascend, 
That these who are deathless would hold o'er the city 
strong hands to defend. 

ETEOCLES 

Pray that the strange spear find a wall more strong. 

LEADER OF THE CHORUS 

Is not this also of the gods ? 

ETEOCLES 

The gods, 
Saith the old word, do quit the conquer'd town. 

CHORUS 

Never may this fellowship of Strong Ones leave 
us, [Str. 2.] 

Nor the breath in me endure, to behold the shame 
Of my city, and her sons in a loud night grievous 
Wrapt round with the burning flame ! 
27 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

ETEOCLES 

Work thou not folly, calling on the gods : 
For of Obedience Good-success is child, 
Yea, of her womb Salvation : so men say. 

CHORUS 

True ; but God is mightier, past all divining ; [Ant. 2.] 
Though a man be ne'er so straiten'd and in grief 
held fast, 
He will give for labour lightness and for cloud clear 
shining, 
And lift up his head at the last. 

ETEOCLES 

This is men's work — to traffic with the gods 

In offerings and shed blood, when foes take hold ; 

But thine to sit indoors and speak no word. 

CHORUS 

For the gods do stand us in stead, [Str. 3.] 

In a city unravished, 

Free folk, this day we abide, 

And the towers endure, nor fail 

When the beatings of battle assail : 

Is there aught in my speech to chide ? 

ETEOCLES 

That ye adore these Great Ones is no blame : 
But lest ye cause the people's heart to melt, 
Possess yourselves and let not fear run wild. 

CHORUS 

A strange sound shook the street, [Ant. 3.] 
All sounds of all manner in one, 
Tumult and trampling and din : 
28 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

And, lo, for the fearful feet 
A sanctuary, a high throne, 
A stronghold to shelter in ! 

ETEOCLES 

Look, an word come of wounds, of stricken men, 
Catch it not up straightway with tremulous cries : 
For with such food is Ares fed, men's blood. 

LEADER OF THE CHORUS 

Nay, hear I not snortings and stamp of steeds ? 

ETEOCLES 

Hear, but thy hearing utter not so loud. 

ANOTHER MAIDEN 

Groanings from earthward ! round the city is death. 

ETEOCLES 

Let this suffice, that I take thought herein. 

ANOTHER MAIDEN 

I faint : the battery waxeth at the gates. 

ETEOCLES 

Peace ! noise thou nought thereof about the streets. 

ANOTHER MAIDEN 

Be true, Fellowship, to our battlements ! 

ETEOCLES 

The plague on thee ! be silent and endure. 

ANOTHER MAIDEN 

Keep slavehood from me, O our citizen-gods I 

29 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

ETEOCLES 

Thou dost enslave thyself, and all the town. 

ANOTHER MAIDEN 

Almighty Zeus, thy bolt fall on our foes ! 

ETEOCLES 

Zeus, this womankind ! gift of thy hand ! 

LEADER OF THE CHORUS 

A sorry kind, as men, whose town is spoil'd. 

ETEOCLES 

How ! touch these holy things and speak more bane ? 

LEADER OF THE CHORUS 

My heart is faint : fear wildereth my tongue. 

ETEOCLES 

One light boon that I crave wilt thou vouchsafe ? 

LEADER OF THE CHORUS 

Declare it swiftly, and swiftly we shall know. 

ETEOCLES 

Be dumb, weak one, lest on our part be fear. 

LEADER OF THE CHORUS 

1 am dumb, and bow me to the general doom. 

ETEOCLES 

This rather than those former words of thine 
I would hear spoken. Also I bid thee stand 
Clear of these holy forms, and pray one prayer, 

30 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

Seemliest, that the gods fight on our side. 

Listen withal my vows, and thereupon 

Let ring the paean divine and favourable, 

The old use Hellenic, peal'd from burning breasts, 

New strength to friends, taking away the fear 

Of foemen. I, behold, speak to the gods 

Which in this land be city-keepers, those 

That rule the field, and those that oversee 

The town's broad places, to the fountain-heads 

Of Dirce and the flood Ismenus, yea 

I do declare and vow : If good befall 

And, peril past, the city breathe again, 

Then, while ye gods behold your hearths run red 

With drench of slain flocks and men gladden you 

With blood of bulls, trophies shall be uprear'd, 

The raiment of our enemies, the spoils 

Of them that hate us, hung to glorify, 

Spear-fasten'd, the inviolate sanctuaries. 

After this sort pray thou the gods, not rife 

In lamentations, not with profitless 

Clamour of frantic breath, whereby no whit 

The more shalt thou escape the thing decreed. 

For me, I go to set six mighty men, 

Myself the seventh, at the outgoings 

Of our built girth, the seven gates, to be 

Our foes' affronters in the heroic way, 

Before the urgent feet of posts, the surf 

Of flying words, do come on us and shake 

Our hearts with fever in the prick of need. 

[Eteocles goes out in the direction of the interior of the city. 

The Chorus chant their second choric song, with 

rhythmic movements, as before.] 

CHORUS 

Yea, O king, thy word I keep : [Str. i.] 

Yet no rest is, and no sleep, 
To my heart's dark turbulence. 
Thoughts that throng and will not hence 

3i 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

Feed the insatiate fire within : 
Foes be round us, a strange kin, 
Fell as basilisks to the dove 
Fluttering wild and weak above 
Her close-bedded care, and those 
Watch, portentous nest-fellows. 
Some to the towers' prostration 
March, by city and nation, 

Full tale — O maidens undone ! 
Some rain flint, and our fighters 
Are smitten and see not the smiters, 

Astonish'd with flying stone. 
Yet the ways of your wit, are they scanted, 

High gods, an ye will to save 
The city that Cadmus planted, 

His sons that bear glaive ? 



To what land, what fields more sweet [Ant. I. 

Far off, will ye lift your feet, 

If ye leave wild war to spoil 

This deep corn-engendering soil, 

These Dircasan wells that pour 

Water of wholesome virtue, more 

Than all rivers that have birth 

From the god that shaketh earth, 

Than all streams that run and shine, 

Fed by the Sea-maidens divine. 

Wherefore, gods that defend us, 

On the stranger let lighten stupendous 

Ruin and blind affray, 
Man-ravaging rout, shield-casting, 
That ye get you a name everlasting 

In the sight of this people to-day, 
That your thrones be made strong, and around you 

Prayer lift shrill music and moan 
From a free folk that faithful hath found you, 

O dread gods, our own. 

32 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

O the ruth of her falling and the pity ! [Sir. 2.j 

This most ancient, high, and honourable city — 

Shall the spear prevail against her ? Shall she lie 
Without helper, and the dry dust fill her mouth, 
Foul her head, and strange children of the South 

Have their will on her, made mighty from on high ? 
Shall she lie as a slave, without honour ? 
Shall her virgins be taken for a prey ? 
Shall men lead them as horses in the way 
By the hair, both the gold head and the grey, 
The grey wife with her raiment rent upon her ? 
A cry in the city ! the sore 
Great cry of her spoiling ! her store 
Is spilt ! Distress in the street, 
Lowings of driven neat, 

Confusion of flocks, and the thing that I dread at the 
door! 

And one goeth with but tears, but tears, for 
dower, [Ant. 2.] 

Ere in holy wise the freshness of her flower 

Is ingather'd, on a bitter road begun, 
Never more in her still chambers to dwell : 
Beside her I dare affirm he fareth well, 

That hath fail'd from among them that see the sun. 
the city, the woes that she tasteth 
In that day, let him reckon them who can ! 
Seeing man getteth mastery of man, 
And blood runneth where before blood never ran, 
And those fling in her streets the flame that wasteth. 
All foul behold her stand 
With the smoke of her burning, fann'd 
By the gust of a fierce god's breath, 
Whose rage is a people's death, 
The sanctities old confounding with violent hand. 

A cry long-drawn in the lanes of the burg beset [Str. 3.] 
With a girdle embattled, a nowise breakable net ! 

(3,652) 33 3 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

They slay and are slain and the quick sword hath no 
rest. 
But your wailings who shall regard, 
Small pitiful mouths blood-marr'd ? 

As lambs ye cry, who were borne but now on the breast. 

Where the prey is, there feet run : 

Hand is foot's own fellow : one 

Spoil-charged justleth another : 

Who lacketh haileth his brother, 

" Be partner with me in the treasure," 
And less none willeth to have, nor even measure. 

But the things that these ensue, 

What guess can reach thereto ? 

In the mire of the streets, a woe to behold, they 
spill [Ant. 3.] 

The good ingarner'd from orchard and glebe and hill, 

And the eye is grieved of them that kept the house, — 
All kindly gifts of the Earth, 
Not sunder' d in sort or worth, 

As refuse shed on the surge tumultuous. 
The young handmaiden, she too 
Strange pangs hath proven and new, — 
To serve the bed abhorr'd 
Of the conqueror, some great lord 
That shall take her a prey, to know 
What the dark night teacheth, the hour of the strength 
of the foe : 
No hope to the end of the years 
But a bitter fountain of tears. 
[Eteocles returns from the interior of the city : enter at the 
same time from the opposite direction the Bringer of 
Tidings.] 

A MAIDEN OF THE CHORUS 

Friends, or mine eyes be mockers, or this man 
The spy is of the host : he bringeth news, 
So hot he plieth the carriage of his feet. 

34 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

ANOTHER MAIDEN 

Lo too, the king, the child of (Edipus, 
At point exact to hear the runner's word 
Cometh, his foot to no less labour strung. 

THE BRINGER OF TIDINGS 

Of all things yonder I can speak : I know 
How, each to each, the gates by lot are fallen. 
At the gate of Prcetus, Tydeus even now 
BeUoweth ; howbeit to pass Ismenus o'er 
The seer forbiddeth, for the sacrifice 
Hath cross aspect : but Tydeus, being big 
With lust of battle, clamoureth, as the dry 
Gule of the dragon in the height of noon. 
And the wise seer he girdeth with loud scorns, 
The son of (Ecles, as one cowering, false 
Of eye, before the face of Doom and War. 
And ever, as he crieth, three shadowing crests, 
His helmet's glory, shake : beneath his targe 
The brazen bells clash terror. And his targe 
Displayeth to men's eyes a proud device, 
A heaven of bronze, ablaze with stars, and bright 
A full moon shineth in the middle shield, 
Night's eye, that of the stars hath seigniory. 
In such wise flown with bravery of his guise, 
Beside the river he rageth, like a horse 
Urgent with forced hard breath against the curb, 
Whenas the trumpet maketh leap his blood. 
Against him hast thou one to set ? What man 
Can bear such brunt of fury, and hold the gate 
Of Prcetus handfast, when the bolts be drawn ? 

ETEOCLES 

I blench for no man's brave caparison : 
Blazons can deal no wounds : nor crest nor bells 
Have biting edge, unfellow'd with the spear. 

35 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

And for that Night, which on his targe, thou sayest 
Is notable with burning signs of heaven, 
It hath, maybe, for other than his foes 
Bodemcnt. For fall there may upon his eyes, 
Even his that beareth those vainglorious arms, 
The night indeed of death, night very and true, 
And so the outrageous man be augurer 
Against himself. For champion, I will match 
With Tydeus the good son of Astacus, 
A man right noble, one that reverenceth 
The throne of shamefastness, abhorring all 
Arrogant words, for ever he would be 
Of shameful things unskill'd, but caitiff no. 
From those Earth-sown whom Ares left alive 
His root is — body of this land's body indeed, 
Melanippus. The event of that shrewd play 
Ares shall rule : but Right, that bindeth still 
Where one blood is, setteth him forth, to ward 
From her that gave him life the violent spear. 

CHORUS 

[Chanting and dancing.] 
Confirm his arm and guide, [Str. i.] 

That striketh on my side, 
O gods, for, as Right will, he succoureth 
The city : make vain my dread 
To see spear-ruin 'd and red 
The body of one whom love led forth and gave to 
death. 

THE BRINGER OF TIDINGS 

Him may the gods so guide in strength ! The gate 
Electran, this is fallen to Capaneus, 
A giant than that other furious one 
Huger, whose vaunt outsoareth man's estate, 
With threatenings breath'd against these towers, whereof 
Not one may Fortune stablish ! For he saith 

36 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

That, let God suffer it or not suffer it, storm 

He will the town, yea stay not, though there fall 

The flaming challenge of Zeus athwart his feet. 

Lightnings and bolted thunders, these to him 

Are even as noon-tide heats. For sign he hath 

A naked man that beareth fire, unarm'd 

Save that the hand showeth a blazing torch, 

And, character'd in gold, he uttereth words 

/ go to burn the town. 'Gainst such an one 

Send — nay, whom canst thou send ? what man shall 

stand 
Before so vast a vaunter and not quail ? 

ETEOCLES 

From such vaunt likewise is advantage bred. 
Know, of the imaginations of vain men 
The tongue is true revealer. Capaneus 
Threateneth, intent to do, making the gods 
A mock, and straining in vain gusts of joy 
His mouth, this mortal rolleth up to heaven 
Against high Zeus great swelling peal of words. 
But sure I am that there will light on him, 
As justice is, the fiery thunderbolt, 
Made like in no wise to the heats of noon. 
Against him— run his mouth ne'er so unpent — 
Is one ordain'd of burning heart, the might 
Of Polyphontes, one that holdeth firm 
His trust of wardship, by the favouring arm 
Of Artemis and grace of all the gods. 
Say to whom else is fallen what other gate. 

CHORUS 

Riven be he and cast down [Ant. i.] 

That boasteth o'er this town 
Great things ! may God's red bolt smite him and stay, 

Or ere he overleap 

The inviolate walls that keep 
My maidenhood unbroke, and ravish me away ! 
37 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

THE BRINGER OF TIDINGS 

That will I tell. The third was Eteoclus. 

Him the third lot that leap'd from the bright bronze, 

The shaken casque, appointed to beset 

With battle the Nei'stan gate. His mares 

He maketh wheel, which in their frontal bands 

Refrain'd, groan grievously, indignant, hot 

To hurtle even now against the gate : 

And fill'd with fiery blowings of their pride, 

The nostril-tubes make shrill barbaric bray. 

Nor humble at all the fashion of his shield — 

A man full-harness'd setteth foot to climb 

A ladder against a burg of foemen, fain 

To storm it, heralding he too withal 

In graven scripture, that even Ares' self 

Were weak to thrust him from the battlements. 

Against him also send one mighty of hand, 

To keep the yoke of bondage from this town. 

ETEOCLES 

Send will I straight such man — and in good hour. 

Nay, he is sent already, one whose vaunt 

In his strong hands abideth, Megareus, 

The seed of Creon, of the Earth-sown sprung. 

He for no fury of horses or whinnyings, 

How loud soever, will give back a-fear'd 

And quit the gate, but either in shed life 

Render to this dear land her nurturing wage, 

Or, men twain and that city on the shield 

O'erthrown together, will make glorious 

With spoils uphung his father's house. Proclaim 

Another, and spare not ; for thy vaunts I crave. 

CHORUS 

Go thou, and prosper thy path, [Str. 2.] 

Whose breast for my house is a wall I 
But on those let discomfiture fall ! 

38 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

They are mad in their gloryings, 
With their mouth they have utter'd great things — 
May an eye, the all-righteous King's, 
Be upon them in wrath ! 

THE BRINGER OF TIDINGS 

The fourth, his roarings shake the gate whereby 

Athene Onca hath her house — the bulk 

And proud proportion of Hippomedon. 

That orb immense, the compass of his shield — 

To see him, how he swung it, for mine eyes 

Was horror ; I say no less. Nor common hand 

Was his, the artificer's, who wrought thereon 

Such work — a Typhon bolting from his gorge 

Black murk flame-shot, the vivid brother of fire. 

And round the shield's great belly is based strong 

For marge an intricacy of writhen snakes. 

But the shield's terror his own dreadful shout 

Transcended. Fill'd he is with the fierce flame 

Of Ares, like to one of that wild rout 

God-driven, raving unto blood : his eyes 

Shoot death. What prudent man would make assay 

Of such-like portent ? Yea, already fear 

Exulteth at the gates, as lord of all. 

ETEOCLES 

First Onca Pallas, our most present friend, 
Whose dwelling is by the gate, such violent pride 
Abhorring, as a deadly basilisk 
Shall spurn him from her nestlings : and with her 
The son of OEnops, good Hyperbius, 
Is match'd against him, strength with strength, well- 
pleased 
To track his doom out in the straits of chance, 
For bodily frame and spirit and use of arms 
Faultless. Yea, Hermes guided well the lot 
That join'd these twain ; for man to man is foe, 

39 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

And adversaries the gods that on their shields 

Shall shock together, seeing one man doth bear 

Fire-breathing Typhon, and Hyperbius 

Hath on his buckler Father Zeus, clear-throned, 

Unmovable, his hand charged with flame. 

And who saw ever Zeus discomfited ? 

Such kindness of his god hath either man 

For surety : and behold on our part is 

The vanquisher, on theirs the inferior strength — 

For is the arm of Zeus not mightier 

In war than Typhon's ? Likely is it withal 

That, as their gods, so will the champions fare. 

By reason of his device Hyperbius 

Shall find true Saviour him upon his shield. 

CHORUS 

He sure on whose shield is shown [Ant. 2.] 

The oppugner of Zeus, the foe, 
Dark birth of the Dark below, 
Foul-favour'd, whom men hate 
And the gods that have days without date, 
He shall leave his head in the gate, 
As a vile thing thrown. 

THE BRINGER OF TIDINGS 

So be it, as thy prayer is ! I proceed 
And tell of the fifth man at the fifth gate, 
The gate Borrhaean, where the mounded earth 
Covereth Amphion of the seed of Zeus. 
He sweareth by the spear-shaft in his hand, 
Which his proud heart holdeth in honour more 
Than the dread gods and dearer than his eyes, 
Crying he will force the town Cadmean, yea 
In God's despite. Such word is his, who grown 
So goodly of the maiden limbs, that erst 
Were light upon the mountains, doth advance 
A front so lovely, liker boy than man. 

40 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

His cheek the unfolding flower of life hath made 

Soft with new down, rich growth of the young blood. 

But cruel, and as his virginal name nowise, 

The heart is, and the eye fix'd in fierce glare, 

Of him that standeth at the door : nor deem 

He cometh without his glorying to the gate. 

For on his targe of beaten bronze, the orb'd 

Safe-keeper of his body, he did wield, 

Made fast with cunning clamps, the city's shame, 

The glutton of crude flesh, the Sphinx, a shape 

Emboss'd and burnish'd, carrying under her 

A man of the Cadmeans : sure on him 

Shall most darts drive : nor seemeth he as one 

That shall wage war by peddling measure or make 

Frustrate so long a travail of his feet, 

The Arcadian, Parthenopaeus. Such he is, 

And therewithal a stranger in the land ; 

Yet, rendering Argos for fair fosterage 

Good service, he doth breathe against these towers 

Such threats as God, I pray, may bring to naught. 

ETEOCLES 

O would that as their thoughts are in those same 
Ungodly gloryings, they might even reap 
At the gods' hands ! That were indeed for them 
Bottomless ruin and blank abolishment. 
And lo, to match him too, the Arcadian man, 
One not lip-valiant, though the vigilant hand 
Shrewd work portendeth ! — Aktor, brother born 
Of him I praised but now. The tongue unyoked 
With deeds he will not suffer to run free 
Within the city and breed rank bane, nor him 
To pass the wall, that on injurious shield 
Beareth the image of that Abominable ; 
Nay, break she through, pass she within, much cause 
She will have, I trow, to curse her carrier, 
When by the wall the blows ring thick. My rede, 
An if it please the gods, shall be found true. 

4i 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

CHORUS 

As a sword that cleaveth the bosom asunder, [Sir. 3.] 
Stirring the hair with horror and wonder, 
Is the word forth flung from a godless tongue, 
The word unmeasured. Smite, stamp them as 

dung 
On the land, Lord of the thunder ! 

THE BRINGER OF TIDINGS 

The sixth I name, wise, reverent, ordinate, 
Seer both and excellent in arms, the might 
Of Amphiaraus. He, elect against 
The Homoloi'd gate, uttereth his voice 
To upbraid with bitter titles manifold 
Tydeus, the mighty lord, as manslayer, 
Confounder of the state, to the Argive folk 
Chief master of things evil, summoner 
Of the black Vengeance, minister of blood, 
To the king Adrastus evil counsellor, 
Of all these woes begetter. Therewithal 
He crieth, with eye uplift, against the prince 
Thy brother, Polynices, making end 
Upon his name, reiterate riddling-wise, 
The Man of Strifes. He crieth aloud and saith : 
"Loa good work in truth, a work wherein 
The gods take pleasure, a work fair to hear, 
Fair to be told of in the days to come, 
That one should give the city of his sires, 
The gods familiar 'mid his people of old, 
To storm and havoc, having brought on them 
The trampling of strange men ! What justice this, 
To blast the well-spring of thy being dry, 
The mother ? How, being captived, spear-abused 
Through thy hot spirit, shall thy fatherland 
Stand on thy part confederate ? For me, 
My doom is to enrich this glebe, deep hid, 
The prophet, in earth unfriendly. Up, my soul, 

42 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

To the battle ! for a fate I bode not void 

Of honour \" In such wise roll'd the great voice 

Of the prophet, while the goodly orb, all bronze, 

His targe, he wielded. And on all that orb 

Sign was there none, for not the best to seem 

His care is, but the best to be ; his soul 

He eareth still, a rich field, furrowing deep, 

And prudent counsels are the fruit thereof. 

To strive with him war-crafty hands and strong 

Find thou to send, I warn thee. Terrible 

He is indeed that reverenceth the gods. 

j ETEOCLES 

Ah me, what power confoundeth, hard to spell, 
Things upon earth, joining the righteous man 
With those most godless ? Nay, in every work 
Than evil converse there is nothing found 
More fell — that harvest, let none gather it ! 
Delusion is a field whose fruit is death. 
For either one god-fearing setteth foot 
Aboard with mariners of violent blood, 
Some wicked practice, and so perisheth 
With all that breed of men god-curst, or one 
Righteous among the people of his town 
Cruel to strangers, reckless of the gods, 
Is taken in one snare with these unjust, 
By the universal scourge of God brought low. 
Even so the seer, the son of CEcles, he 
A man sage, righteous, worthy, god-fearing, 
A mighty prophet, mix'd with men profane, 
Great mouths unbridled, feet that, in despite 
Of wisdom, foot far ways beyond return, 
Shall in their fall, God willing, be pull'd down. 
Nay, he will not so much as try the gate, 
I deem, not counting him or recreant 
Or base of spirit : only he knoweth well 
That in this fight his end must come on him, 
Unless the oracles of Loxias 

43 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

Fail, without fruit : but the god's use it is 
Either to hit the truth or hold his peace. 
Howbeit, we will set a mighty one 
Against him, Lasthenes, a door-keeper 
That giveth grievous welcome, yea, a mind 
Age-practised in the flesh of lusty youth, 
Swift foot in onset, and a hand not slow 
To pluck the blade bare from the shieldward side. 
But for good speed, that cometh of the gods. 

CHORUS 

For our righteous pleading, high gods in 

heaven, [Ant. I.] 

At this gate speed and at all her seven 
The city. We call war-travail to fall 
On the strangers ! Blast them without the wall, 
O Zeus, by the storm of thy levin ! 

THE BRINGER OF TIDINGS 

Lo now the seventh at the seventh gate, 
Even thine own brother, king, what bitter doom 
His lips denounce upon the city and pray — 
That he may set his proud foot on her towers, 
Publish his name over the land, and lift 
From triumphing throat the paean of her fall, 
Last front thee, face to face, and either slay 
And, where thou diest, die, or hound thee hence 
Living, who didst despoil him, and conform 
To his own pain the fashion of his revenge. 
With such-like shoutings his familiar gods, 
The old worship of this land, the mighty prince 
Polynices calleth to be favourable 
Fulfillers of his prayers. A targe he hath 
New-framed, a goodly round, and by smith-craft 
Thereon a double emblem, for a man 
In semblance as a warrior, of wrought gold, 
Is by a woman led in seemly wise. 

44 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

Justice her name she nameth — so the signs 
Graven declare, And this man will I bring 
From exile home and cause him to possess 
His city and in his fathers' house once more 
Walk up and down. Lo such as I have told 
Be the devices they have devised, those men. 
Of thine own prudence now look whom to send, 
Nor fear to find thy herald slow to bring 
Report. Thou only of thy prudence rule 
This ship, our city, through the wildering seas. 



ETEOCLES 

O thou of God's wrath madden'd, by heaven's hate 
Singled ! Ah me, our lamentable house, 
Seed stricken of GSdipus ! Behold at last 
They are fulfill'd, the curses of our sire. 
Yet it were ill done to make dole, to weep, 
Lest there be bred some more unbearable woe. 
Only to him I say, well-named of strifes, 
Polynices — we shall know right soon wherein 
That his device shall end, if graven signs, 
Work of the goldsmith, flaunting on his shield 
In folly of mind distraught, shall bring him home. 
Aye, had she part in this man's works or mind, 
The child of Zeus, the virgin Justice, then 
This thing might be. But neither when he leapt 
Free from the dark house of the womb, nor while 
He grew by nurture, nay, nor when he stood 
In youth's full flower, nor when the gathering days 
Enrich'd his cheek with hair, did Justice bend 
An eye on him or know him from afar. 
Nor will she now, I think, stand at his side, 
Now in the harrying of his fatherland — 
Justice ! — nay then it were all-just to call 
Her name a lie, she federate with a man 
Whose wild will overleapeth every bar. 
Having such trust, I go encounter him, 

45 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

I mine own self. For who hath right more just ? 
Prince with great prince, brother with brother, foe 
Shall meet with foe. Bring hither, I say, with speed 
My greaves, bring hither the brazen things that keep 
This flesh from brunt of spears and battering stones. 
[Attendants bring the King's armour from within the 
palace. Some remove his long robes ; others do on 
his armour. Whilst he is being armed, the Leader of 
the Chorus speaks :] 

Nay now, dear heart, nay, child of (Edipus, 
Let not thy mood become as his whose name 
Is hate and hissing. Surely enough it is 
That Argive men and men Cadmean strive 
In bitter battle, seeing for that blood shed 
Cleansing may be ; but when the slayer and slain 
Be of one blood, death is so horrible, 
No multitudinous days make old the stain. 

ETEOCLES 

[Standing now fully armed with a great spear in his hand.] 
If we must needs bear evil, let not shame 
Go with it ! — that one good is left the dead. 
From evil join'd with shame honour is none. 

CHORUS 

[Chanting and dancing.] 
What thoughts, O beloved, go through thee ? [Sir. i .] 

Beware the rageful mind — 

Blood-lust that maketh blind ! 
Uproot, ere it quite undo thee, 

The beginning of evil will ! 

ETEOCLES 

For God is sore and urgent, let it run, 
Rapt down the river of hell before the hate 
Of Phoebus, all the seed of La'ius ! 

46 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

CHORUS 

O'er-fierce the desire is that stingeth, [Ant. I.] 

Devoureth thee, driveth thee on, 

Till a murderous work be done, 
Be done, and the dire fruit springeth 

From the blood not lawful to spill ! 

ETEOCLES 

Hate from love's fount, the black Spell of my sire 
Cleaveth beside me, with dry dreadful eyes, 
Bidding me snatch some gain, ere the end come. 

CHORUS 

Let her crying not move thee ! no mortal [Str. 2.] 
For prudence shall hold thee unmann'd. 
But, the gods with the gift of thy hand 

Well-pleased, she shall pass from thy portal, 
The storm-dark spirit of ill. 

ETEOCLES 

The gods ! they have forgotten me long since : 
But of my dying glory and thanks redound. 
Why stand I yet to palter with my doom ? 

CHORUS 

Its due to the dark hour render : [Ant. 2.] 

Endure ! and thy weird at the last 

May change, may veer in his blast, 
And blow with a breath more tender, 

That now is infuriate still ! 

ETEOCLES 

Fury pour'd forth ! the curse of (Edipus ! 
O visions and shapes of sleep, too true ye were, 
Too true, dividers of the heritage ! 

47 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

LEADER OF THE CHORUS 

Be ruled of women, though thy stout heart groan. 

ETEOCLES 

Speak within compass, in few words withal. 

LEADER OF THE CHORUS 

Let be thy going to the seventh gate ! 

ETEOCLES 

I am set : mine edge no speech can turn aside. 

LEADER OF THE CHORUS 

Yet victory, though vile, God honoureth. 

ETEOCLES 

No man of war but must abhor that word. 

LEADER OF THE CHORUS 

Shall thy spear ravish thine own brother's blood ? 

ETEOCLES 

The gods send evil, and who can scape from it ? 
[Eteocles goes out, attended, towards the gate. The Chorus 
chant their third choric song.] 

CHORUS 

There is horror overshadowing, a strange god's 

token, [Str. I.] 

A god not as the other gods, a god by whose blow 
The house is brought to nothing and the great house 
broken, 
For true is all her showing, and the burden of it woe. 
She is Wrath ensuing hard 
A father's prayer ill-starr'd, 

48 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

And strength is in her working, to fulfil 

Each passionate curse the blind 

King spake whilom, his mind 
Being troubled by a visiting of ill ; 

For lo, thy sons, O sire, 

Strife ravageth as fire. 

Of the heritage an alien is judge and awarder, [Ant. i.] 

One come from far away, from the Scythian breed 
That beside a sea not theirs set in ancient time their 
border, 

A Divider of the substance, that heareth not men 
plead, 

A Chalybean, yea 

That bitter thing, the grey 
Hard iron, and the portion that his doom 

Meteth of land to hold 

Is even so much of mould 
As sufficeth for a bloodless body's room : 

But the broad lands and fair 

They craved — of those no share ! 

When dead they lie, brought low [Sir. 2.] 

Brother by brother foe, 
Through flesh his own the shaft of either thrust, 

When, cruddled black, the blood, 

Streams of one fatherhood, 
Earth shall have drunk, conglomerate with her dust, 

What spells, what rites can shrive the sin 
Or wash them clean ? O house, new storms begin 

To break on thee amain 

With all the old, old pain ! 

Of old in very deed [Ant. 2.] 

There clave unto this seed 
A trespass, and God's ire hot on the trace, 
Till children's children groan ! 
Seeing from the Navel Stone 

(3,552; 4Q 4 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

In Pytho, from Earth's midmost mystic place 

Apollo thrice did testify 
To La'ius, and bade him childless die, 

If he would turn away 

From Thebes the evil day. 

But he, so strong did press [Str. 3.] 

Persuaders' foolishness, 
Begat — nay, his own ruin it was begot — 

(Edipus, other none, 

The father-slayer, the son 
That sow'd the untouchable maternal plot, 

The field where he was fashion'd, and bare 
The burden, a root of blood. doom-led pair, 

Thwart, unblest bridal night, 

With madness for a light ! 

Now blacken the seas, and run [Ant. 3.] 

Billow on billow, one 
Ruineth adown, and one behind doth swell 

Hard on the labouring hull 

His top three-fringed, full 
Of foam and noise and mischief huge as hell. 

And what between, to keep secure ? 
A little space of wall. O heart, endure ! 

Heart, that may see this town 

Brought with its proud kings down. 

The end is come on us, [Str. 4.] 

The end calamitous, 
Full tale the curses utter' d of old have found. 

Darkness hath hidden day, 

And passeth not away. 
O sons of men that eat bread of the ground, 

Though lusty full your proud estate, 
The ship must void to the seas all her inordinate freight. 

Who had such worship of yore [Ant. 4.] 

Before the gods, before 

50 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

Them that had fellowship in our city's fire, 

And all whose feet did then 

Frequent the ways of men 
As (Edipus ? whose goings did they admire 

Like his, that fear'd not to withstand 
Alone the fell man-ravening fiend, and saved the land ? 

When no more his thought [Sir. 5. 

Was holden, when the horror in his flesh wax'd plain, 

Twin ills he wrought : 
For his heart in him was changed by the hugeness of the 
pain. 

With that hand first 
That had lighted on his father in ungentle wise 

Himself he amerced, 
Yea, bereft of more than children, of the seeing of his 
eyes. 

Then on his sons — [Ant. 5.] 

Because wrath burn'd hot for the sustenance denied — 

Fierce malisons, 
The poison of the tongue, did he pour, yea cried : 

" With iron sheer 
Divide ye the inheritance, divide ye and rend ! " 

That word, how I fear 
Lest the lithe-foot Fury bring it true in the end ! 

[Enter from the battlefield the Bringer of Tidings.] 

THE BRINGER OF TIDINGS 

Be comforted, my daughters, fosterlings 
Of tremulous mothers : take good heart : no more 
Need this our city fear the yoke of shame. 
The gloryings of the proud are gone to ground. 
The city rideth in fair seas : for all 
The storm of furious waters, she hath shipp'd 
No brine. Her wall held steadfast, and her gates 
We stopp'd with champions, man to man, that well 
Have kept the charge assign'd. For the most part, 

5i 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

Yea at six gates, is perfect feature of joy, 
But, for the seventh, he that triumph'd there 
Was even that Dread One, Leader of the Seventh* 
The Lord Apollo, who hath visited 
Home on the house of (Edipus the fault 
Made of blind heart long since by Laius. 

LEADER OF THE CHORUS 

What strange ill hath befallen the city else ? 

THE BRINGER OF TIDINGS 

The city is saved, but her consanguine kings — 

LEADER OF THE CHORUS 

Who ? speak thy drift. My mind is troubled of dread. 

THE BRINGER OF TIDINGS 

With clear mind hark ! The sons of (Edipus — 

LEADER OF THE CHORUS 

Woe's me ! my thoughts divine the dreadful end. 

THE BRINGER OF TIDINGS 

In no ambiguous sort pounded and bruised — 

LEADER OF THE CHORUS 

Are fallen ? thy word, how sore soever, speak. 

THE BRINGER OF TIDINGS 

The men are dead : the hands that slew, their own. 

LEADER OF THE CHORUS 

By hands of one flesh in one doom undone ? 

* The seventh day of the month was sacred to Apollo. 
52 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

THE BRINGER OF TIDINGS 

Earth hath drunk blood of mutual fratricide. 

LEADER OF THE CHORUS 

One weird for both then ! one in bitter truth ! 

THE BRINGER OF TIDINGS 

One weird, that wasteth this disastrous race. 

Lo, here is argument for tears, for joy, 

The city indeed in good estate, but these 

Her chiefest, her two captains masterful, 

Have made division at last of stuff and store 

Even with the Scythian anvil-hammer'd iron. 

Of land they hold so much for heritage 

As a grave's length : so to the end foredoom'd 

Their father's pitiless prayer hath borne them on. 

CHORUS 

[Chanting] 
God Most Highest and Helpers that hold 
In the city upbuilded by Cadmus of old 

Dominion and guard, 
Shall the noise of thanksgiving and triumph abound 
For the city that whole is, and saved and sound ? 
Or weeping rather for those ill-starr'd, 

In battle famous and first ? 
Of strife was he named, the hapless one, 
And surely by strife are the twain undone, 

Sore strife and a mind god-curst. 

[The Chorus chant and dance.] 

thou black malison, full sum [Sir-] 
On the house of (Edipus thou art come ! 

My heart is struck with shuddering and strange fear. 
As one god-fill' d and frenzy-led, 

1 have made a song to crown the dead : 
Two piteous bodies marr'd in war, 

53 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

Hearing, I vision. A wicked star 
So brought together spear and spear ! 



It hath work'd to the end, unspent, unstay'd, [Ant.] 

The dread prayer that a father pray'd : 
Laius, thy sin remain'd, a bitter seed. 

The city, trouble is fall'n on her : 

No time can blot God's word nor blur. 

Ye have wrought, O young hands lying cold, 

A thing incredible ! Who foretold 

Sorrow ? Lo, sorrow is here indeed. 
[Men come in from the battlefield, bearing on two biers the 
dead bodies of Eteocles and Polynices. The Leader 
of the Chorus speaks :] 
Yea, plain in presence. Eyes prove hearing true. 

CHORUS 

[Chanting.] 
Crown twofold of calamity ! burden double ! 

Two fair kings in the murderous feud self-slain ! 
What should I say, but that trouble still with trouble, 

111 guests by the hearth, grim fellowship, remain ? 
Speed ye the bark, O friends, with a wind of wailing, 

To a tune as the pulse of oars beat the bow'd head : 
Beyond the River of Dole she is borne of it, sailing, 

The solemn bark, black-stoled, ungarlanded, 
Untrod of Apollo, whereon sun never shined, 
To a shore unseen, to the haven that all shall find. 
[Antigone and Ismene come out from the palace : they 
take their stations by the two biers, Ismene by that of 
Eteocles, Antigone by that of Polynices.] 

But who be these, by the bier, we see ? 
Daughters of kings, Antigone, 
Ismene, come with a joyless intent, 
To weave for their brethren the due lament. 
Soon, soon, I trow, there will flow on the air 
From bosoms blown as a flower and fair 

54 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

Sorrow beseeming a measureless ill. 
And ours is it still, as the old use will, 
To hearken their descant, and chaunt in accord 
The hymn of the goddess, the Terrible One, 
Drear sound death-boding, for burden intone 
The psean of Hades abhorr'd. 

Oye 

Of all that gird them beneath the breast 

Sisters surely the sorrowfullest, 

I sigh, tears raining, and no false feigning 

Is the cry of my heart distrest. 

[Antigone and Ismene chant the funeral dirge, accompany- 
ing their chant with rhythmic movements : the Chorus 
chants responses.] 

ANTIGONE 

O minds amiss, [Str. i.] 

Trustless of friends, unbent by blow on blow, 

Your fathers' house, even this 
The prey was of your spears — O iron forged for woe ! 

CHORUS 

Yea, woe did these attend, 
And woeful was their end, 
Ruining their fathers' house in their own overthrow. 

ISMENE 

To the ground, to the ground [Ant. i.l 

Ye have brought the house. Was this to reign alone ? 

Bitter the prize ye found. 
But lo the iron, at last, the iron hath made you one. 

CHORUS 

And true in very act 
The pitiless Power exact 
Hath made to stand the King your father's malison, 

55 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

ANTIGONE 

Home to the heart the strong hand thrust, nor 

shrank, [Str. 2.] 

Thrust home, nor stay'd : 
Each launch'd a breast in that same mother-flank 

As his first made. 
O driven by more than man, 
Wild spirits ! O withering ban, 

And death-stroke by death-stroke repaid ! 

CHORUS 

Those hands of so dread reach 
Struck house and body through, 
With rage astonying speech : 
And the sire's word made true 
Did mingle in one peace, till the world's end, the two. 

ISMENE 

One grief, one cry doth thrill the city ; grieve [Ant. 2.} 

Her towers forlorn : 
The deep earth grieveth, mother of men : ye leave 

To the later-born 
Those goodly things wherefor, 
Poor hands, ye strove so sore, 

And the end is a night without morn. 

CHORUS 

They have shared, in passion of heart, 
And the shares equal are — 
One part as the other part : 
But daysman different far 
Their friends had craved, nor kind nor fair the face of 
War. 

ANTIGONE 

The iron hath wrought ; the side red staineth : [Str. 3.] 
And, wrought with iron, for these remaineth 

56 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

A room, a room dug deep, 
Where king by king doth sleep. 

CHORUS 

Their house shall know them not to-morrow : 
A cry goeth with them as they go — 
True grief of grief and sorrow of sorrow, 

Sharp grief, estranged from gladness, making flow 
Tears from my heart's deep springs, 
Heart faint with vain longings, 
Tears for these dead, my kings. 

ISMENE 

What will ye say of them, all ye who pity ? [Ant. 3.] 
Dread things these did to the men of their city, 

And strange folk, many a band 

Ravenous, rued their hand. 

CHORUS 

O mother miserable, ill-fated 

Beyond all women everywhere, 
Beyond all mothers of men, that, mated 

With her own child for spouse, conceived and bare 

Of such bed sons, for whom 

Their own wild hands wrought doom, 

Hands fashion'd in one womb ! 

ANTIGONE 

Aye, sown in one womb and uprooted, [Sir. 4.1 

Dismember'd in merciless mood, 
For their hate drave them on and imbruted, 

Till the long feud closed in blood. 

CHORUS 

Now is all strife still'd, and their life for ever 
Is mix'd in earth and made one with her, 
57 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

One blood, no hate can at all dissever, 

One blood : but a bitter arbiter 

Was he that from dim seas came, 

The stranger fashion'd in flame, 
The sharp-edg'd iron ; yea, bitter and hard 
The god that did measure and make award, 

Ares, that stablish'd all 

The ban prophetical. 

ISMENE 

God did give them their portion and granted [Ant. 4.] 

An heirdom of pain to prehend. 
Are they poor, when beneath them unscanted 

Is a deepness of earth without end ? 

CHORUS 

stem, behold them, who crown' d thy story 

With the crown that was only a weft of woes ! 
For the conquering Curses exult and glory, 

And the peal of their triumph is loud at the close, 

Fierce shrill song over a race 

Broke, scatter'd, swept clean from its place ! 
Confusion her trophy hath set for a sign 
In those red gates, and the Weird malign, 

One life on the other spill' d, 

Doth rest with ruin fulfiU'd. 

ANTIGONE 

Shrewd stroke didst thou give, and sustain. 

ISMENE 

In thy dying thy strength did appear. 

ANTIGONE 

With the spear hast thou stricken and slain. 

58 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

ISMENE 

Thou art slain with the spear. 

ANTIGONE 

I bewail thee. 

ISMENE 

I weep for thy pain. 

ANTIGONE 

Wail on wail. 

ISMENE 

Tear on tear. 

ANTIGONE 

As a victor thou comest again. 

ISMENE 

Borne dead on a bier ! [Waitings.] 

ANTIGONE 

My soul is amazed with sore crying. 

ISMENE 

Sore the grief in my deep heart pent. 

ANTIGONE 

What dirge can suffice for thy dying ? 

ISMENE 

For thine what lament ? 

ANTIGONE 

Thy body no stranger hath broken. 

• 59 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

ISMENE 

Not strange is this form marr'd by thee. 

ANTIGONE 

Twofold is the grief to be spoken. 

ISMENE 

The grief that we see. 

ANTIGONE 

One sorrow is join'd to the other 
And both are made fast. 

ISMENE 

For brother, united with brother, 
Hath one grave at last. 

CHORUS 

O Doom of God, whose working is here, to show thee 

A giver of grievous things ! O imminent might, 
The dead king's Shadow ! and thou, by proof we know 
thee 
Strong, thou pursuing Wrath, black daughter of 
Night ! [Waitings.] 

ANTIGONE 

For exile he found instead — 

ISMENE 

Anguish hard to behold. 

ANTIGONE 

Scarce come, and his hand was red ! 

ISMENE 

Safe home, and his days were told ! 

60 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

ANTIGONE 

The web of his days mid-riven ! 

ISMENE 

Him too hath he ravish'd away. 

ANTIGONE 

O desolate race doom-driven ! 

ISMENE 

Dim, desolate day ! 

ANTIGONE 

Now sister by sister weepeth, 
And double for each the dole. 

ISMENE 

For pain, as a swift beast leapeth, 
Hath leap'd on my soul. 

CHORUS 

Doom of God, whose working is here, to show thee 

A giver of grievous things ! imminent might, 
The dead king's Shadow ! and thou, by proof we know 
thee 
Strong, thou pursuing Wrath, black daughter of 
Night ! 

ANTIGONE 

He doth know what her dark is and prove her. 

ISMENE 

And did not he too understand ? 

ANTIGONE 

When he came, not in guise of a lover — 

61 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

ISMENE 

Hand arm'd against this one's hand. 

ANTIGONE 

O burden of lamentation ! 

ISMENE 

Sight lamentable to see ! 

ANTIGONE 

Yea, woe for their house, for their nation ! 

ISMENE 

Woe much more for me ! 

ANTIGONE 

Who shall measure his labours and weigh them ? 

ISMENE 

Ah ! king great in woe as in grace ! 

ANTIGONE 

Ah ! where in the land shall we lay them ? 

ISMENE 

Ah ! even in its kingliest place. 

ANTIGONE 

Through wild ways, O my brothers, ye erred, 
For a god set strange fire in your breast. 

ISMENE 

Where the grief of the father is buried, 

Cometh new grief to rest. 
[The bearers prepare to lift the two biers to carry the two 

62 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

bodies to burial. Enter from the direction of the 
interior of the city, the Herald of the State, attended. 
At a sign from him the bearers put down the biers 
again, and the Herald, standing by the palace door, 
makes his proclamation :] 

THE HERALD 

The ordinance deliberate and decreed 

By the prime council of the Cadmean state 

My office is to publish : Eteocles, 

Eor that great love he bare the land, shall be 

Given to the earth's kind breast in burial, 

Because, abiding in the city, he chose 

Death : toward the olden sanctities of his race 

Perfect in duty, without blame, he died 

There where for young men death is comeliest. 

Concerning him so my charge is to speak. 

But for his brother — this dead thing that erst 

Was Polynices — he must be cast out 

Unburied, meat for dogs to ravin — ah, 

The desolator of the Cadmean land ! 

Only some god did stop the way against 

His wicked spear. So shall there cleave to him, 

Though dead, the abhorrence of his fathers' gods, 

In whose dishonour he brought in alien troops, 

This man, and went about to take the town. 

In recompense whereof the fowls of heaven 

Shall give his body a tomb unhonourable : 

Neither the piled labour of men's hands 

Shall be his portion, nor shall any name 

His name with shrill and lamentable cries, 

Bare of the dead man's honour, not borne forth 

By hand of friend. Lo, such their pleasure is, 

Who hold command in this Cadmean town. 

ANTIGONE 

And to the great Cadmean lords say I : 
Though no one else there be in all the town 

63 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

With heart to help in this man's burial, 

Yet will I bury him, I, setting my soul 

Upon the hazard, careless, so I win 

A grave for this my brother, unashamed 

To break the order of the state, and stand 

In such sort rebel. Dread constraint and dear 

Liveth in that one womb whereof we came, 

Of one unhappy mother and sire ill-starr'd. 

Therefore my soul, full willing, taketh part 

In this man's evil, who hath soul no more 

For will : the living and the dead, one kin 

To love's thought yet ! His flesh shall never glut 

The wolf's pinch'd belly : let none dream such dream 

For I, albeit a woman, will devise 

A manner of burial, earth delv'd and heap'd, 

Bearing it lapp'd in byssus of my robe. 

Myself will cover him : dream not otherwise. 

Fear nothing : a way there will be, and a sure. 

THE HERALD 

Prove not thy strength, I rede thee, against the state. 

ANTIGONE 

And I rede thee : serve me no words of wind. 

THE HERALD 

Is not a people fierce, new-scaped from dread ? 

ANTIGONE 

How fierce soever, this man shall not lie bare. 

THE HERALD 

The city hateth, wilt thou honour him ? 

ANTIGONE 

The gods have cut him off from honour for ever ' 

64 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

THE HERALD 

Because he brought this land in jeopardy. 

ANTIGONE 

111 things were done him, ill he render' d back. 

THE HERALD 

Not against one he stretch'd his hand, but all. 

ANTIGONE 

Strife is the god slowest to end debate. 

This dead man I will bury. Waste no breath. 

THE HERALD 

Good : be thou stubborn. Yet my word saith No. 
[The Herald, with his attendants, goes out in the direction 
from which he came.] 

THE LEADER OF THE CHORUS 

[Chanting.] 
Tower up and triumph, magnipotent 
Weird ones and dark, that have riven and rent 

The house of (Edipus, stock and stay ! 
Whereto shall I turn me ? what thing choose ? 
O thou dead man, dare I refuse 

Tears, or to walk with thee thy last way ? 
Only I fear too much and shun 
The wrath of the people. Surely one 

Shall have surge of mourners about his bier : 
But thou shalt pass with never a sigh, 
Save one sharp dreadful desolate cry, 

Thy sister's ! Hard law to hear ! 

(3,552) 05 5 



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES 

[Another Maiden steps apart from the Chorus and is 
followed by a few others. These few take their station 
with Antigone by the bier of Polynices. The Maiden 
chants :] 
As its pleasure is, let the city do 

To them that mourn and make lament 
For Polynices ! Lo, we few, 

With her we fare, on his burying bent. 
Aye, follow we will with him along : 

For the whole kin suffereth in this death, 
And Right, what is it ? The people's tongue, 

As the wind's way, varieth. 
[The bearers lift up the bier of Polynices and carry it out, 
followed by Antigone and the few Maidens who have 
joined her.] 

THE LEADER OF THE CHORUS 

[Chanting.] 
With the other we, as biddeth Right 

And the people's voice : for, under those 
High Shining Ones and God's great might, 

By him the city of Cadmus rose 
Unscath'd : yea, lifteth she again 

Her head from the swelling of the sea, 
The storm and deluge of strange men, 

Her saviour, this is he ! 
[The bearers lift up the bier of Eteocles and carry it out, 
followed by Ismene and the rest of the Chorus.] 



66 



NOTE ON THE PRONUNCIATION 
OF THE GREEK NAMES 

Classical names are pronounced in English according to a 
tradition amongst scholars which has become part of the 
general tradition of English speech. To pronounce names 
in accordance with this tradition is to pronounce them 
" correctly," but it should be understood that " correctly " 
does not mean "as they were pronounced by the ancient 
Greeks." Since gramophones had not been invented in the 
days of iEschylus, nobody now knows with any certainty 
how the ancient Greeks in any particular century pro- 
nounced their language. It is quite certain that their pro- 
nunciation was always very different from the ' ' correct ' ' 
pronunciation in English, and if an ancient Greek had heard 
Greek names pronounced in the way an educated man 
pronounces them to-day when speaking English, he would 
probably often not even have recognized what name was 
intended. In one respect the "correct" pronunciation, 
where words have more than two syllables, follows the 
ancient in putting the accent on what in the ancient pro- 
nunciation was a long vowel. Thus the name Polynices 
was probably pronounced by .ZEschylus something like 
Pollii-nee-case, the first two syllables short and unaccented, 
the u pronounced like a German modified u, and last two 
syllables long. According to the English tradition the 
" correct" pronunciation is " Polly-nice-ease," putting the 
accent on nice. It will be seen that although the vowels 
and some of the cpnsonants are so differently pronounced, 
the stress on the syllables does correspond with the long 
and short syllables in the ancient pronunciation. A scholar 
is thus quite justified in shuddering as at something horrible, 
if he hears any one pronounce the name Polynices with the 
last two syllables short, or if he hears any one pronounce 
the name of the poet as ^Eschy'lus. The " correct" pro- 
nunciation of the poet's name rhymes with " Peace kill us," 
if you put all the accent on " peace," and hurry over the 
other two syllables. The poet himself pronounced it some- 
thing like Ice-khiil-os, putting the stress on ice, and making 
the sound of an h between the k and the following vowel, 

68 



PRONUNCIATION OF THE GREEK NAMES 

which was pronounced, as was said before, like a German u 
modified. Here, too, though the sounds in the "correct" 
English pronunciation differ so much from the original 
sounds in Greek, the stress comes on the right syllable. 

All this having been explained, I proceed to give the 
"correct" pronunciation of the principal names in this 
play in alphabetical order — those at any rate where there 
can be any question : 

Amphiaraiis, amfy-array-us (accents on am and ray). 

Amphion, amf -eye-on (accent on eye). 

Antigone, an-tiggo-nee (accent on tig). 

Aphrodite, afro-di'te-ee. 

Ares, air-reeze (accent on air). 

Argive, g pronounced as in " give," not as in " gipsy." 

Artemis, accent on first syllable, the e short. 

Astacus, accent on first syllable, the second a short. 

Borrhaean, borree'an. 

Capaneus, cap-a-nuis(ance), leaving out the ance, and 

accenting cap. 
Chalybean, cally-bee'an. 
Creon, cree'on. 
Erinys, er-ry'niss. 
Eteocles, accent on first syllable, the two middle 

syllables short. 
Eteoclus, accent on first syllable, the other three 

syllables short. 
Hippomedon, hippo'medon (the e short). 
Homoloid Gate, hommo-lo'id. 
Hyperbius, hype'r-bius. 
Ismene, is-mee'nee. 
Ismenus, is-mee'nus. 
Laius, lay'i-us. 
Lasthenes, la'ss-the-nees. 
Loxias, lo'xias. 

Megareus, me'g-a-ryoose (last syllable not stressed). 
Melanippus, melani'p-pus. 
Ne'istan Gate, nee-i'stan. 
CEcles, ee'k-leeze. 
Gidipus, ee'dy-pus. 
Ginops, ee-nops. 

Parthenopa?us, pa'rtheno-pee'ns (second syllable short). 
Polyphontes, polly-fo'nt-ease. 
6 9 



PRONUNCIATION OF THE GREEK NAMES 

Poseidon, poss-i'de-on. 

Proetus, pree'tus. 

Tydeus, ti'de-use. 

Typhon, tie'fon. 

Zeus, zyoose (to rhyme with " puce "). 



CAST 

Eteocles 

A Spy : A Bringer of Tidings . 
A Herald 

Antigone 

ISMENE 

CHORUS 

Leader 

First Maiden 

Second Maiden 

Third Maiden 

Fourth Maiden 

Fifth Maiden 



When the play is cast the number of the Chorus must b 
decided and their lines distributed among them. See th 
translator's note in the stage-direction on page 21. 

In a reading Eteocles may be " doubled " with th 
Herald, or with Antigone, or Ismene ; and the Spy wit! 
any other of the same three characters. 



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